Cincinnati Reds – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-10-17T03:20:50Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds’ Managerial Search Enters Second Round]]> 2018-10-16T04:18:54Z 2018-10-16T04:08:56Z The Reds are slated to undertake a full managerial search at the outset of the offseason, as has long been anticipated. Interim skipper Jim Riggleman took over after Bryan Price was fired and has been at the helm for most of the current season, but the club is determined to consider an array of candidates before naming the next full-time dugout leader.

As we did last year with other openings of this kind, we’ll use this post to track the early developments in the hiring process in Cincinnati. Today, president of baseball operations Dick Williams announced the initial slate of internal candidates, as’s Mark Sheldon was among those to report. It is anticipated that the team will also speak with outside candidates as well, though identities are not yet known.

Latest Update — Oct. 15

  • The Cincinnati org is preparing to launch its second around after talking with over ten candidates in its first bunch of interviews, per’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). It’s not yet known which first-round interviewees will be asked back for more intensive discussions.

Click to view full overview of managerial search:

Read more

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Central Notes: Kluber, Greene, Cubs]]> 2018-10-13T17:02:12Z 2018-10-13T16:58:54Z Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber has earned $3.5MM of a possible $4MM in contract escalators, according to Jordan Bastian of (via Twitter). All that remains is an all-but-certain top-10 finish in this year’s Cy Young award voting to raise Kluber’s salary in 2019 from $13MM to the full $17MM. His contract options in 2020 and 2021 will increase to $17.5MM and $18MM respectively. Despite a disappointing loss to Justin Verlander and the Astros in the ALDS, Kluber put together another stellar campaign in 2018. He won twenty games for the first time, going 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 215 innings. Kluber’s run of dominance began in his age-28 season, and he’s been one of baseball’s true number-one starters in the five years since (2.84 FIP, 152 ERA+ over that time). He more than earned his pay raise, but it does make an already-tight financial situation even tighter for Cleveland this offseason as they try to fill holes in their lineup and rebuild their bullpen around July acquisition Brad Hand.

Some notes from the Senior Circuit’s central division…

  • Encouraging news for Reds fans from Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, as 2017 number two overall pick Hunter Greene rehabs his elbow at the Reds’ Spring Training complex in Arizona. Greene sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow – and though injuries to this ligament often result in Tommy John surgery – Greene elected the non-surgical route and is progressing as planned. Before ending his season in July, the 6’4″ right-hander was 3-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 18 starts at Class-A Dayton. Advanced metrics paint a more impressive picture for the 19-year-old flamethrower – 11.72 K/9, 3.29 FIP, 3.13 xFIP. Greene hopes to get back to hitting triple digits when he resumes throwing in December or January.
  • Cubs players seemed unclear in exit interviews about the organization’s hitting philosophy. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon and whoever replaces Chili Davis as Maddon’s hitting coach will strive for greater harmony in organizational messaging about their offensive strategy moving forward, but the track record isn’t great writes the Athletic’s Patrick Mooney as he reviews Chicago’s hitting coaches since 2013 – a list that will be one name longer by Opening Day 2019. Current Phillies hitting coach John Mallee survived the longest, a three-year stretch that included the 2016 World Series and ended after the 2017 season. Some names Mooney suggests the Cubs could consider include their former special assistant in player development Anthony Iapoce, who spent last season as the Rangers’ hitting coach, Erik Hinske, Mallee’s assistant hitting coach for three seasons in Chicago, and current assistant hitting coach Andy Haines.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nick Senzel To Undergo Elbow Surgery, Miss Arizona Fall League]]> 2018-10-11T16:59:20Z 2018-10-11T16:59:20Z Reds top prospect Nick Senzel lost much of the 2018 season due to injury, and it seems another health issue will cost him an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League. Senzel tells Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’ll undergo surgery to remove two bone spurs from his left (non-throwing) elbow and be sidelined for up to six weeks as a result.

It’s the latest setback for Senzel in a year that has featured all too much unwelcome injury trouble. The former No. 2 overall draft pick (2016) was out for nearly half the 2018 season owing to vertigo symptoms and a fractured finger that required surgical repair earlier this summer. On the plus side, Senzel still expects to be ready to go when Spring Training rolls around.

Still, Senzel’s absence from the AFL isn’t without consequence. With Eugenio Suarez now locked up as the Reds’ long-term third baseman following last spring’s seven-year extension, and Scooter Gennett possibly in line for an extension of his own, the Reds have shifted Senzel from the infield to the outfield. Senzel got some outfield work during instructional league play, and there’s general optimism that he’s athletic enough to handle the outfield; farm director Shawn Pender told C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic yesterday (Twitter link), “I don’t think there’s a position on the field he couldn’t play.”

Nonetheless, the AFL would’ve given Senzel the opportunity to accrue some valuable outfield experience in advance of Spring Training 2019. “…I wanted to get out in the outfield and do some reps,” Senzel tells Nightengale. “That was the plan to play in the Fall League. I couldn’t further risk more injury because I knew my elbow has been bothering me for the last 10 months. I played through it for as long as I could. “

To his credit, the 23-year-old Senzel didn’t play like someone whose swing was hampered by elbow pain. He raked at a .310/.378/.509 clip through 193 plate appearances in his first exposure to Triple-A earlier this season, despite the fact that he was facing considerably older competition. That marked a followup from Senzel’s terrific age-22 season in 2017, during which he hit a combined .321/.391/.514 while splitting the year between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.

Given his offensive upside, it’s not surprising to see Senzel’s name included in most top 10 overall prospect rankings from around the industry. The upcoming procedure will deprive him of some outfield experience, potentially delaying his path to the big leagues, but it still seems likely that he’ll have the opportunity to impact the Reds at the Major League level in 2019.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds Claim Juan Graterol]]> 2018-10-10T20:31:26Z 2018-10-10T20:31:26Z The Reds announced Wednesday that they’ve claimed catcher Juan Graterol off waivers from the Twins after he’d been placed on outright waivers. Cincinnati already had a pair of open 40-man roster spots, so not corresponding move is necessary.

Graterol, 29, only appeared in three games with the Twins after having his contract selected in late September. He’d previously appeared in 58 games at the Major League level with the Angels organization and is a lifetime .217/.227/.274 hitter in 111 plate appearances as a big leaguer. He’s notched a more respectable .289/.316/.346 slash in 572 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, but Graterol is known more as a defensive-minded backstop than a threat at the plate. He’s halted 38 percent of stolen-bases attempts against him in parts of 13 minor league seasons and thrown out 12 of 36 potential base thieves in the Majors (33 percent). He’s also routinely posted average or better framing numbers, per Baseball Prospectus.

Despite his shortcomings at the plate, Graterol’s defensive capabilities have made him a popular target on the waiver wire in the past. In the 2016-17 offseason, for instance, he went from the Angels, to the Reds, to the Diamondbacks, back to the Angels and then to the Blue Jays via waiver claim in a span of two months. After opening the season in the Jays organization, he was then flipped back to the Angels in a minor trade. Graterol still has a minor league option remaining beyond the 2018 season, so if he survives the winter on a 40-man roster (be it with the Reds or another organization), his team in Spring Training will be able to send him to the minors without first exposing him to waivers.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Players Electing Free Agency]]> 2018-10-09T00:20:27Z 2018-10-09T00:20:27Z Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

Marlins: OF JB Shuck

Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

Padres: OF Matt Szczur

Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Reds Acquire Ryan Lillie From Marlins For International Spending Capacity]]> 2018-10-11T23:39:37Z 2018-10-06T21:28:09Z The Reds have acquired right-hander Ryan Lillie from the Marlins for international bonus money, per C. Trent Rosecrans of the Athletic (Twitter link). $750K of availability is going to Miami in the swap, per’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter).

Lillie, 22, was a fifth round pick of the Marlins in the 2017 draft.  Though he showed plus command (1.12 BB/9 for Low-A Greensboro this season) in his initial low-level taste, Lillie seems little more than organizational depth at this point: at season’s end, he didn’t rank in the top thirty for a mid-pack Marlins system in any major publication.  Baseball America (subscription required) does note that he has a chance to be a back-end reliever, lauding his ’above-average’ slider, though the Marlins used him almost exclusively in a starting role.

For the Marlins, the incentive seems clear: stockpile as much international bonus pool money as possible in hopes of luring star free agent Victor Victor Mesa to Miami.  The Fish, who began the day with $4.3MM in pool money, have baseball’s second-highest total in that department and figure to be key players for the 22-year-old when the time comes.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Managerial Openings]]> 2018-10-06T18:34:45Z 2018-10-06T14:34:49Z Make your pick for the most appealing managerial opening here, but while you mull your options, catch up on the latest rumblings…

  • The Rangers managerial job is Michael Young’s if he wants it, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The former Rangers infielder is one of many ex-Rangers currently serving as special assistant to GM Jon Daniels, along with Ivan Rodriguez, Darren Oliver, and Colby Lewis. Theoretically, Young would provide philosophical continuity with the previous regime as well as the front office. Conversely, he’s been looked at before, withdrawing himself from consideration before the hiring of Bannister in 2014, and there’s no indication he has any more interest in the position now. MLB TV analyst Mark DeRosa and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin – Young’s teammates on the 2006 Rangers – continue to pop up as potential alternatives.
  • The Reds hope to have their new skipper in place by the end of the World Series, per Nightengale. Next on the interview docket: Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo and Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens will be brought in this week, reports Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Meulens served as Bruce Bochy’s right-hand man last year after eight season as the Giants’ hitting coach. The Curacao native managed the Netherlands for two World Baseball Classics and has been considered a manager-in-waiting for a few seasons – interviewing with the Tigers and Yankees last winter, added Mark Sheldon of Charlie Montoyo managed Rays affiliates for eighteen years before coaching third base at Tropicana from 2015-17 and – like Meulens – moving to the bench for 2018. Along with their internal candidates, the Reds have interviewed Joe Girardi, Brad Ausmus, and current Giants VP of player development David Bell, as it appears the Reds search is beginning to take shape. It’s no surprise that they’ll want their new manager installed before the offseason bonanza begins, as they plan to be aggressive in going after pitching. If they can secure a clear, strong voice in the dugout and a few extra arms for the mound, the Reds will have accomplished their two primary offseason goals.
Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Poll: Which Is The Most Intriguing Managerial Job?]]> 2018-10-06T03:47:21Z 2018-10-06T03:47:21Z Six teams are currently on the hunt for new managers, leading to a flurry of rumors and reports about experienced skippers, and coaches/broadcasters/former players all linked to these jobs.  If you’re being offered your first shot at managing a big league team, obviously, you perhaps can’t be afford to be too picky — the same could be said of veteran ex-managers who don’t know if they’ll ever get another chance at running a dugout.

So technically, the question of “which job would you prefer to take?” might not apply to many candidates, but it’s just fine for a hypothetical poll here on MLB Trade Rumors.  All of these six openings have their pros and cons, and it really comes down to individual preference about what makes one job more attractive than another.  Would you prefer to manage a team that has shown a willingness to spend?  One with a proven organizational track record of success (and stability)?  A rebuilding club with a bunch of promising minor leaguers on the way?

Here are the six teams currently conducting a manager search…

Orioles: Nowhere to go but up after 115 losses, right?  Baltimore’s new manager will be entering an organization in a state of flux after a disastrous campaign, as the O’s are also looking for a new GM to replace Dan Duquette, as well as the Angelos brothers fully taking over the team’s operations from their father.  With the rebuild just underway, however, a new skipper wouldn’t be expected to win for at least a few years, creating a low-pressure teaching environment to help bring along the Orioles’ younger talents (some of whom were acquired in the team’s deadline fire sale).  There’s plenty of opportunity here for a manager to enter at day one and put their stamp on a new era of Orioles baseball.

Blue Jays: Another AL East team that is technically “starting” a rebuild, though the front office has unofficially been reloading the farm system over the last few years.  Some of those young names made their debuts in 2018, though the biggest stars of Toronto’s highly-touted minor league ranks (including Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) are still to come in 2019 or 2020.  Since GM Ross Atkins is targeting 2021 for the Jays’ return to contention, a new manager has two years of building and development ahead before expectations rise.  With payrolls topping the $160MM mark in each of the last two seasons, a new manager can be confident that ownership and the front office will eventually spend to add talent.

Reds: Similar to the situation with the Jays, Cincinnati’s new skipper will step into a situation where some of the heavy lifting has already been done in terms of rebuilding.  The Reds have built an interesting core of position players (Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, and franchise cornerstone Joey Votto) that should only improve once top prospect Nick Senzel cracks the big league roster.  The problem, of course, is a dearth of starting pitching, though the club is prepared to spend this winter to address that and other needs.

Rangers: Here’s another team in sore need of pitching help, which GM Jon Daniels has said “is a priority” for the coming offseason.  The Rangers are in an interesting, and perhaps unwelcome, spot compared to the other teams on this list, in that they’re not really clearly rebuilding or planning to contend in 2019.  This is what happens when a team almost entirely en masse, as neither the established players (Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor), the youngsters (Ronald Guzman, Willie Calhoun) or the former star prospects in between the two camps (Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara) particularly distinguished themselves last year.  That said, a new voice in the dugout could help in unleashing the talent that this group clearly possesses, plus there’s organizational stability in the form of Daniels, who is the game’s second-longest tenured general manager.

Angels: What manager wouldn’t relish the opportunity to lead the game’s best player in Mike Trout, or the game’s most fascinating player in Shohei Ohtani?  Combine those two with Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and a host of young relievers, and there’s a lot to like about the Angels’ roster.  Beyond the star names, however, the Halos are still trying to fully get through a stunning onslaught of pitching injuries that have thinned the pitching depth (including sidelining Ohtani from the mound in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery).  The new Angels skipper will be expected to turn things around quickly, especially with Trout only under contract for two more seasons.  There are some big shoes to fill in the wake of Mike Scioscia’s departure, and it’s fair to wonder how much rope owner Arte Moreno will give to a manager who didn’t have a World Series title on his resume or the organizational influence that Scioscia held in the club.

Twins: If the team continues its yo-yo performance of the last four seasons under Paul Molitor, then it should be due for another winning season in 2019 — do we have a bizarro Giants/#OddYear scenario here?  In all seriousness, Minnesota might actually be in the best position of any of these six teams to contend next season, given the weakness of the AL Central.  The better odds might be on a bit of a step backwards as baseball operations heads Derek Falvey and Thad Levine figure out which of their young talents are actual building blocks and which might be trade chips.  A manager who can get Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano back on track, however, could make a quick impact.

(poll link for app users)

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Castellini: Reds' 2019 Payroll Will Be Highest Ever]]> 2018-10-05T20:09:41Z 2018-10-05T20:04:34Z
  • MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently took note of the fairly substantial drop in attendance seen at the Great American Ball Park this year, while Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that 2018 marked the Reds’ slowest year at the turnstiles since 1984.  Elsewhere around town, however, Cincinnati’s minor league soccer team FC Cincinnati is busy setting attendance records as they prepare to make the jump to the MLS in 2019, according to Sharon Coolidge and Patrick Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Losing the attendance battle to a minor league soccer team might be discouraging, but it’s also a clear indication for the Reds that a hunger exists in the city to support a winner.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds Outright Gabriel Guerrero, Tim Federowicz]]> 2018-10-03T21:01:12Z 2018-10-03T21:01:12Z The Reds announced Wednesday that catcher Tim Federowicz and outfielder Gabriel Guerrero have cleared waivers and been outrighted from the 40-man roster. Both will likely become free agents.

    Guerrero, 24, was once considered to be one of the Mariners’ best prospects but has seen his production evaporate since reaching the Double-A level. Since 2015, he’s been with the Mariners, D-backs and Reds organizations but never produced at an elite clip in the minors. The Reds did give him his first taste of the Majors in 2018, and he managed to connect on his first big league homer in a brief 14-game stint with Cincinnati. On the whole, though, he went 3-for-18 with eight strikeouts and no walks in his first MLB cup of coffee. There’s certainly reason to believe that a player with Guerrero’s bloodline can improve; he’s the nephew of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and the cousin of Blue Jays uber-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

    The 31-year-old Federowicz, meanwhile, went 2-for-6 with a homer in his five games as a Red this season and also spent 10 games with the Astros, where he batted .206/.229/.294 in 35 plate appearances. Dating back to 2011, “Fed-Ex” has appeared in the Majors in every season except 2015, serving mostly as a backup and a short-term replacement in the case of injury. He’s a career .199/.247/.323 hitter in 360 MLB plate appearances but does boast a tremendous .303/.374/.501 batting line in nearly 1900 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Notes: Girardi, Lorenzen]]> 2018-09-30T20:14:27Z 2018-09-30T20:12:50Z
  • It’s a near certainty the Reds will have Joe Girardi on their wish list as they search for a full-time manager, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (video link). If Cincinnati does pursue Girardi, the former Marlins and Yankees skipper informed Rosenthal he would consider taking the job. “I want to manage again. I’m interested in everything,” said Girardi, whom the Yankees parted with last fall after a long and successful run in New York. On paper, the rebuilding Reds and Girardi may not look like a match, though it’s worth noting they expect to spend more in 2019 and could attempt to start pushing toward contention.
  • The Reds’ 2019 manager will have to decide how to deploy righty Michael Lorenzen, a reliever who could vie for a starting role next season. Lorenzen started 21 times as a rookie in 2015, but he moved to a full-time relief job the next season. He has since made three starts, all of which came this season, and ended his year on Saturday with 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Pirates. The 26-year-old then said (via Mark Sheldon of that he wants to return to starting on a full-time basis. “It’s not a secret that it’s something I want to do,” said Lorenzen, who added he’ll “work extremely hard” in the offseason to bolster his chances. Lorenzen was a valuable member of the Reds’ staff in 2018, as he posted a 3.11 ERA/4.18 FIP over 81 innings. He also did his best offensively to serve as the NL’s answer to Shohei Ohtani, hitting an excellent .286/.333/.750 with four home runs in 31 trips.
  • ]]>
    Jason Martinez <![CDATA[Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover]]> 2018-09-29T00:49:46Z 2018-09-28T22:40:26Z While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Williams: Reds Have Increased Spending Capability This Offseason]]> 2018-09-28T12:36:20Z 2018-09-28T02:20:23Z The Reds aren’t known as big-time players in free agency, but president of baseball operations Dick Williams tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he expects to have “significantly” more spending capacity than he’s had in previous offseasons, though he added, “It still only goes so far, unfortunately.”

    Cincinnati’s offseason spending over the past two years has checked in around a total of $15MM, with modest two-year commitments being made to David Hernandez ($5MM total) and Jared Hughes ($4.5MM), plus one-year pacts for Drew Storen ($3MM), Scott Feldman ($2.3MM) and Yovani Gallardo ($750K). In fact, the Reds haven’t spent more than $5.5MM on a free agent since signing Ryan Ludwick (two years, $15MM) and Jonathan Broxton (three years, $21MM) in the 2012-13 offseason under former general manager Walt Jocketty.

    Fay notes that starting pitching is, unsurprisingly, going to be Cincinnati’s top target this winter, but it doesn’t seem plausible that they’d play for the most in-demand names available; Clayton Kershaw (if and when he opts out), Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are among the headliners on the open market this season. Each figures to be far too pricey for a Reds team that will still have budgetary restrictions to which it’ll need to adhere.

    [Related: Cincinnati Reds depth chart and payroll info]

    In fact, it’s at least somewhat surprising to hear that the Reds have the means to significantly bolster their spending. The team is facing an attendance drop, per the figures tallied at Baseball-Reference (1.837 million in 2017, 1.542 million in 2018), and there are no significant contracts coming off the books this winter. To the contrary, there’s been some speculation of an extension for Scooter Gennett, which would come with a pay raise, and their arbitration class should yield raises for Anthony DeSclafani, Scott Schebler, Michael Lorenzen, Billy Hamilton, Gennett (if he is not extended) and closer Raisel Iglesias (assuming he opts into arbitration this winter, as is his contractual right).

    However, the Reds are at last seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of Homer Bailey’s albatross contract, which expires following the 2019 season (after he’s earned a $23MM salary and been paid a $7MM buyout on his 2020 option). That contract’s expiration could make the club more amenable to adding some modest multi-year commitments to the books in an effort to supplement an increasingly intriguing core of position players that includes Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart, Gennett and stalwart Joey Votto, to say nothing of one of the game’s top prospects in Nick Senzel.

    The Reds will need to address the rotation aggressively if they have any hope of competing next year. Many of the arms the team has acquired over the course of its rebuild have not yet panned out (e.g. Brandon Finnegan, Rookie Davis, Cody Reed, John Lamb), while drafted/developed prospects like Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano have also struggled. Heading into next season, DeSclafani and Luis Castillo seem the best bets to turn in average or better seasons, though certainly the Reds have a number of young internal options who could yet emerge.

    Still, the group as a whole lacks certainty, and to that end, Fay writes that he expects Williams & Co. to make a run at re-signing Matt Harvey, whose career rebounded after being traded to Cincinnati (128 innings, 4.50 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 4.14 xFIP). The free-agent market has a fair number of other serviceable arms and upside plays in its second and third tiers (full list), and The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans tweeted recently that Williams said the team will consider Asia more than in the past. The Reds, of course, watched the division-rival Cardinals strike gold on righty Miles Mikolas in his return from Japan, and it’s worth noting that there have been rumors of 27-year-old Seibu Lions lefty Yusei Kikuchi being posted for Major League teams this winter as well.

    It’s far too early to forecast specific targets for the Reds, but it’s nonetheless notable that the organization’s top decision-maker has expressed confidence in his ability to spend more aggressively as the team’s long-term lineup begins to come into clearer focus.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Reds Announce Front Office Promotions]]> 2018-09-26T21:12:19Z 2018-09-26T19:14:25Z
  • The Reds announced a pair of promotions yesterday. Shawn Pender will become VP of player development, while Eric Lee becomes the team’s senior director of player development. Clearly, both will be trusted with bringing along the organization’s young talent. But the intake process is still in line for change as well. The club is seeking an international scouting director in advance of some ramped-up efforts there, with’s Mark Sheldon noting that president of baseball operations Dick Williams suggested it’s likely to be an outside hire.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[5 Middle Infielders That Posted Surprisingly Strong 2018 Seasons]]> 2018-09-24T16:29:49Z 2018-09-24T16:29:49Z It’s an exceedingly quiet day on the transactional front, which affords an opportunity to look at some higher-level developments around the game as the 2018 season comes to an end. My perusal of the stat pages revealed that there are several interesting middle infielders — by trade, if not always by use this year — who have posted surprisingly strong campaigns.

    There are obviously other shortstops and second basemen who have likewise excelled beyond expectations — e.g. Scooter Gennett and Trevor Story — but it feels as if they’ve received proper recognition and examination already. It’s worth taking a closer look at this handful of players:

    • Jurickson Profar, Rangers: Yes, folks, the former top overall prospect in baseball has finally arrived … at the ripe old age of, um, 25. Through 567 plate appearances this season, Profar has produced a .255/.337/.457 slash with 18 home runs and ten steals. He has gone down on strikes just 79 times while drawing 52 walks. While the defensive work hasn’t been valued as highly — whether due to frequent position shifts, Profar’s shoulder issues, short-sample blips, or otherwise — he has made up for that with highly valued work on the bases. All said, it’s the sort of campaign that was once envisioned for a player who debuted at 19 years of age. He’ll remain arbitration eligible for two more campaigns and could step in at third base if Adrian Beltre departs, though Profar’s capabilities in the middle infield still help buttress the Rangers’ options (including in potential trade scenarios).
    • Johan Camargo Braves: While Camargo has been handling third base this year, and doing so with aplomb, he spent most of his time in the minors at short and could still factor there in the future, so he gets a spot on this list. Interesting young infielders abound in Atlanta, but this one has come from way off the radar to turn in a season every bit as impressive (if not moreso) than those of his more celebrated brethren. If his 2017 results suggested some likelihood of regression, Camargo’s 2018 follow-up indicates that he has made serious strides. Through 499 plate appearances, he owns a .273/.353/.457 slash with 18 home runs. He’s drawing free passes in ten percent of his trips to the dish (double his rookie rate) while strikeout out twenty percent of the time. Only a surprisingly poor baserunning grade (-3.4 BsR) has held him to an even 3.0 fWAR on the season.
    • Joey Wendle, Rays: Entering his age-28 season, Wendle had appeared in just 36 MLB contests. Thus far in 2018, he has contributed 521 plate appearances of .301/.356/.439 hitting with seven long balls and 15 steals. Wendle may struggle to sustain those numbers, given that he’s relying upon a hefty .355 BABIP and isn’t quite supported by Statcast (.341 wOBA vs. .320 xwOBA). Still, he offers value in the other facets of the game and at worst seems to be quite a useful, affordable asset for the surprising Rays. It’s all the better for Tampa Bay given that Wendle was acquired out of DFA limbo over the winter.
    • Marcus Semien, Athletics: We can probably stop waiting for Semien to break out at the plate. He’s yet again firmly ensconced between the 90 and 100 wRC+ range — smack dab in the middle, in fact, at 95. He might finish with only about half the dingers he smacked in 2016 (27), but is reaching base at a palatable enough clip. So … his inclusion on this list is almost entirely dependent upon what one thinks of his glovework. Semien is humming along at +8 DRS and +7.8 UZR after mostly posting poor metrics in past seasons. He hasn’t entirely eliminated the errors that once plagued him, though with twenty this year he’s still well shy of the 35 he recorded in 2015. What he is doing is earning big marks for ranging to balls and converting them into outs. The result? 3.6 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR.
    • Jose Peraza, Reds: There isn’t a ton to get excited about with Peraza, who has posted solidly average marks in most regards while providing an extra boost on the bases. Still, that makes him a potential regular player — much more than he seemed capable of after his first full MLB run in 2017. At 24 years of age, he’s youthful and controllable. Peraza has made clear strides in the power department, where he has socked nearly as many dingers (13) as he had at all levels in the prior three seasons combined (14). He’s also converting his frequent contact into a high-enough batting average (.290) to support a reasonable on-base percentage (.328) despite a piddling (albeit still-improving) 4.4% walk rate. Though the defensive metrics aren’t in love with the glove, it’s good enough to hold down the position. The overall package is sufficient to induce the Reds to pencil in Peraza at short for some time, giving top prospect Nick Senzel a look in the corner outfield this fall rather than exploring other potential infield configurations.